Covid Timeline

As the nation passes a full year of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the number of vaccinations greatly increases each day, it seems to many that we might be nearing the end of this historic era. However, while it is important to continue forging ahead in our efforts to rid ourselves of the virus, it is also necessary to look back in time to understand how we ended up in this situation.


A Novel Coronavirus is suspected to have originated in a fresh market in Wuhan, China in December, 2019. From there, it rapidly spread around the city. The first international case was reported in South Korea on January 20, 2020, with the first confirmed case in the United States being reported from a hospital in Seattle the very next day. The first European case was reported in France on January 24, with a second American case being confirmed that day in Chicago. Facing the death of 26 of its citizens, the Chinese government instituted quarantines in many major cities and began the unprecedented rapid construction of two hospitals in Wuhan in anticipation of the eventual spread of the virus. The first travel restrictions were put into place as well, with multiple airlines cancelling flights from China to the US.


However, while symptomatic spread of the virus was the main factor in the initial spread, a much more chilling development was identified on February 21, 2020: the discovery of asymptomatic carriers. “This was the point where it was too late to control it and it was clear that the disease would spread worldwide.” says Dr. Brian Labus, epidemiologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The rise in asymptomatic cases became a large contributing factor in the sharp increase of deaths and spread around the world.


Late February 2020 saw the beginning of the massive response from nations and international organizations around the world. Emergency committees were convened by the World Health Organization. A name for the disease was chosen: “COVID-19,” stemming from an acronym for “Coronavirus Disease” originating in 2019. The EU met to discuss future strategy and the US assembled a federal task force headed by Vice President Pence to control the spread of the virus.


March saw much of the United States declare states of emergency, with Washington state being the first state to do so. Governor Pritzker of Illinois made the decision to close schools on March 13, 2020, following the declaration of a national state of emergency by President Trump. E-learning schedules commenced throughout the state and many were forced to begin working from home. Restaurants, bars, and other gathering spots were closed nearly instantly around the country. The Dow Jones witnessed its largest drop in its entire history on March 16, triggering a massive unemployment spike.


The following months would see the rapid rise in cases around the world, specifically in China, Italy, and the United States. Italy saw its daily death toll top China in late March, with the US eventually taking the top spot in early April, where it would remain up until the present day.


Of course, central to the United States’ situation was the response of the federal government. Former President Donald Trump made many controversial statements about the virus. He was criticized for his reference to the virus as the “China Virus,” his promotion of the unfounded claims that the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine was an effective treatment against COVID-19, and his frequent contradiction of his Chief Medical Advisor, Anthony Fauci. Republicans in Congress stalled the release of the stimulus package that would provide relief for millions of Americans. Likewise, Republican governors began to prematurely relax their states’ initial restrictions, leading to large spikes in cases and deaths in their states. The number of confirmed cases in the United States reached 1 million on April 28, 2020.


June saw the beginning of serious trials for vaccines. Pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer would lead the pack throughout most of the development. Funding was provided through massive donations by governments and billionaires around the world. Unfortunately, the rapid development along with disinformation campaigns would be the cause of multiple dangerous and misleading conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccines and their safety. Talking about the reasons for vaccine skepticism, Dr. Brian Labus said, “Some people don’t trust science, others don’t trust the government, and others worry about personal liberty.”


Throughout July and August, the United States saw a rapid increase in Coronavirus cases. The virus became the third-leading cause of death in the country in mid-August with over 1000 deaths recorded per day. The world saw its millionth death related to COVID-19 on September 28, 2020, making the virus officially deadlier than diseases such as malaria, influenza, and cholera were that year.


On October 2, likely as a result of a maskless, non-socially distanced press conference in the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump and the First Lady officially tested positive for Coronavirus. They were immediately transferred to Walter Reed Military Hospital where they thankfully made a relatively quick recovery. Meanwhile, cases continued to spike around the world with 60,000 being reported in the United States on October 15 and the 40 millionth worldwide case being reported four days later.


Early November brought about the 2020 Presidential Election. The incumbent Trump would lose to challenger Joe Biden in the historic election, decided by narrow margins in many swing states. A large talking point in the campaign for each candidate was their response to COVID-19. According to a Gallup poll, Americans greatly preferred Biden’s plan to Trump’s, partially leading to his eventual victory. This election turned out to be crucial in the nation’s fight against the virus as President Biden eventually came to oversee the rollout of vaccines throughout the country.


As it stands, the United States has witnessed the death of over 500,000 citizens with some estimates stating that nearly a third of all residents have likely had the virus, either in symptomatic and asymptomatic varietes. The world has seen over 2.6 million deaths and 120 million confirmed cases so far. However, vaccine rollout has been fairly swift in the United States. Only three months after the first vaccines were distributed, over 13 percent of adults have already been fully vaccinated and over 25 percent being partially vaccinated with the numbers increasing daily. Cases around the nation are falling rapidly as a result of both the increased vaccination and mandates that have been instituted by President Biden. A massive second stimulus bill was passed by Congress, granting much-needed relief to millions of struggling Americans. Many schools have begun the process of reopening to somewhat normal schedules. All in all, despite all of the terrible events of the past year, we can begin to feel more optimistic about the future as we heal from the tragedy of the pandemic.